Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

Obscurity Points // Wipers

September 1st, 2014 | Features | 0 Comments

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Wipers almost can’t be considered an obscure band simply because so many people and publications have written about them and their obscurity. Among those who have named them as an influence, the list, according to wikipedia, includes Dinosaur Jr., The Melvins, Nation Of Ulysses, and most notably, Kurt Cobain. And yet I’ve never heard anyone in real life talk about Wipers. Unlike other cult acts like Big Star and Death, there’s yet to be a big festival circuit documentary about the band. All of which, I guess, means we writers have to keep writing about them.

Started by Greg Sage in the late 70′s in Portland, Wipers played what we would now call proto-grunge punk, though Sage claims that at the time, what they were doing was too weird for the ‘punk’ tag. As the legend goes, their first three albums, Is This Real? (1980), Youth Of America (1981) and Over The Edge (1983) are the classics, perhaps some of the best records to emerge out of the Northwest punk scene of the era. Recently I checked them all out and the rep is legit: these albums are punk classics. They feel confidently assembled with a sharp lo-ish-fi sound, consisting of rough but catchy pop songs and one or two more experimental tracks each; none of the three are too long or too short. And there is something just a little weird about them, a little ‘Portland’, keeping them interesting after all the years and bands later.

The band continued to release albums through the 80s and 90s, and I’m looking forward to checking them out, but the general word is that the first three are the ones to beat. But who knows, maybe I’ll have to do a feature on one of those if it turns out there’s an unappreciated classic hiding in the discography, which is sometimes the case.

According to Pitchfork’s feature on the band, Sage was invited to open for Nirvana on tour, and that could’ve been their breaking out moment. And Sage passed on the opportunity. What if he hadn’t? Would Wipers have broken out and become one of the defining grunge bands of the era? If so, maybe nobody would be writing about them anymore – they’d be a product of time and place. The upside is that the best cult bands are often the ones who were passed over in their time and so become timeless.

Roadtrip To Sappyfest Video

August 16th, 2014 | Features | 0 Comments

This is a little video I made of my roadtrip to Sappyfest. Enjoy :)

Sappyfest 9: Day 3

August 4th, 2014 | Features | 0 Comments

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Day 3 began with the event Universal Dawn in the Sackville community garden. This mostly consisted of prose and poetry readings, but it also featured Rose Melberg (Softies, Tiger Trap, million other bands). Admittedly, I didn’t pay too much attention to the readings, I was writing while they were going on and was more interested in Rose Melberg‘s set. She played solo electric and it was pretty much exactly what you’d expect from Rose Melberg: simple, sweet, charming.

I missed the Asphalt Watches screening, but grabbed a coffee (which I never drink, but I needed something to keep me energized for the last day of the fest) and sat down to watch Banded Stilts‘ set. The East coast band played a solid set of very ‘clean’ Canadian indie-folk. I don’t find the genre the most interesting of all genres, but I don’t have anything against it, and Banded Stilts ably performed a well-written setfull of songs. I would say the exact same thing about the not-dissimilar music and performances of Olympic Symphonium and Baby Eagle, who both played later that day.

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Rae Spoon – now based in Montreal – followed them and, as with Banded Stilts, I also find Spoon’s music a little too clean, too ‘Indie 88‘, but, even taking this into consideration, clearly Spoon is a songwriter of incredible skill and craft, both lyrically and musically. Her performance was likewise very tight.

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Skipping forward a couple hours, Mike Feuerstack (Snailhouse, The Wooden Stars) performed the best set I’ve ever seen him play. I think it was the fourth time I’ve seen him, but only the second time with a full band. And this band had their shit down. Though Feuerstack’s songs work just fine when played solo, a great backing band blows them up into epic widescreen. They also picked picked a phenomenal bunch of Feuerstack’s songs to play, not that he’s lacking in great songs from numerous albums.

Following him, Basia Bulat was another performer of the fest who just seemed too ‘clean’-sounding to me, so I didn’t pay much attention to her set. Sorry… :/

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Sackville locals Shotgun and Jaybird followed her. I’d never heard any of their stuff before their set, but I loved their lazy East coast indie-rock tunes, and their performance was great. Contrasting with Spoon and Feuerstack’s sets they kept things very loose, taking turns alternating between guitar and drums. I had heard a lot of talk of love for the underdog band and I’m beginning to see why – looking forward to checking out their albums.

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And then… it was the Constantines turn. Shit got crazy. The Cons are an amazing live band to begin with, and they met a hugely enthusiastic audience at Sappyfest. People were moshing hard at the front from start to finish and the crowdsurfing got so out of control that surfers were getting stacked on top of eachother because there were so many. The end of their set didn’t feature as hugely classic songs as the first two thirds, but that’s the most minor complaint on Earth. Not every song can be “Shine A Light” and “I Will Not Sing A Hateful Song” (way, way, way better live, btw).

I saw a bit of Halifax rapper XXX CLVR‘s set but wasn’t feeling it, so I left the Legion to go grab a beer at the bar Duckie’s.

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Sometime around 2:00 am Halifax’s Quaker Parents played a set at The Shed (literally that) that I caught the end of and that was cool too. Annnnd then I had to sleep.

But wow. Sappyfest was one of the best music festivals I’ve ever been to, if not the best, period. The whole experience was utopian – beautiful people, great music, an amazing and gorgeous location, and with outdoor markets and cool coffee shops and a zine fair…I wish we could’ve just stayed there and decided we were going to live our lives like that forever. If I can come back next year (and the years after and after) I will. Because I get it now. It’s just a magical festival that attracts, for the most part, people who really care not about the bro-ing out and getting drunk and big name bands, but the real stuff: music, good times and a lot of new friendships :)

 

Sappyfest 9: Day 2

August 3rd, 2014 | Features | 0 Comments

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Waking up in Sackville during Sappyfest is like waking up in paradise. This is what you see…

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So after that I went down to the main downtown intersection. There’s been an outdoor market here throughout the fest, but yesterday morning they also had farmers selling vegetables. I bought some baby carrots. I ate them with hummus. They were delightful.

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At around eleven I went to the Legion hall to set up for the zine fair, in which I was participating. (In order to make a couple bucks for the festival, I turned the first chapter of my in-progress book, about my trip across America after finishing the IDF, into a little zine.) I ended up meeting and sort of befriending some of the other vendors, including Jonathan Rotsztain, who traded zines with me (his was more a comic, actually) and interviewed me for an article he’s writing about the zine fair for Broken Pencil Magazine.

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I felt like a total amateur. Everyone else had a bunch of zines or prints or comics or whatever, of different colours and sizes and they looked really nice…and I had just the one black and white zine.  I actually ended up selling most of them and trading almost all the rest, probably because Israel’s been in the news so much lately. I made a little bit of money, nothing amazing, but I was glad to have it to spend on records and stuff.

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I missed most of the afternoon’s shows because of the zine fair and then I worked out on the plateau of an unfinished or demolished bridge by the lake. Around eight I went back to the mainstage to see Cool, from Vancouver. I wasn’t that crazy about them. They seemed kind of jokey to me, playing this high energy white funk kind of thing. Everyone else seemed to love them though, I guess I’m just a pretentious curmudgeon or something.

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Montreal’s sort of Talking Heads-esque post-punk band Ought followed them. These guys have been blog/Pitchfork favourites of late, and I like them on record, but I wasn’t that crazy about them live. The frontman was doing this high-energy David Byrne-esque frontman shtick that reminded me of quirky 80s art-punk bands, but I didn’t buy it, it felt too put on.

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Julie Doiron followed them. She was introduced as ‘the mayor of Sackville’ and it was easy to see why. Doiron is something of an indie legend in Canada, and especially the East Coast, and the fact that she lives in this tiny town of 5000 is kind of amazing. Here she’s sort of accorded royalty status, but she’s also just ‘Julie from the block’ or whatever.

Her set was very cordial. It was just her and a drummer. They played a couple songs from her enormous repertoire (she’s been putting out incredible music since the early 90s) and also did a shaky cover of “Love Hurts”. It felt like she knew she didn’t really have to impress anyone; she was playing for friends, which made it a fun set, but not the most technically mindblowing.

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By the time Cousins came on I was just ‘rocked out’. I sat outside the main area and watched, and they played a great set like every other time I’ve seen the Halifax duo, but I was just out of energy by that point. I had enough left for two songs by local indie rockers (sorry for the unspecific description, I was getting too tired to listen too closely) Weird Lines at the Legion hall, but then I was done for. But another great day/night of Sappyfest all the same.

Sappyfest 9: Day 1

August 2nd, 2014 | Features | 0 Comments

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Sackville is a tiny little town in New Brunswick. The only thing that separates it from a million other little towns across Canada is that it is also home to Mount Allison University, which gives the town a bit of a youthful and interesting character. And during Sappyfest weekend, that character is exploded as the underground but up-and-coming indie-rockigentsia of Canada descend upon it for three days of music, beer, zines, outdoor markets, and general good times for all. It’s kind of like a house party that’s not too big or crazy and everyone there is either your friend or potentially your friend. Except instead of a house it’s a remote town in Eastern Canada.

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The first band I saw was The Grubbies, a sort of garage pop band from Halifax. Apparently they’re big fans of The Who, since they covered a bit of “The Kids Are Alright” during their soundcheck and then ended their set with “Heatwave”. They were good.

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Following them was Montreal prog-poppers Freelove Fenner, who I’ve been feeling for a little while. They were very ‘sturdy’ and precise live – their records would lead you to imagine they would be – but not super energetic. I spent the whole set watching the guitarist perform the chorus-drenched figures that give the band a lot of its unique sound.

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Dusted Holy Fuck‘s Brian Borcherdt and RitualsLeon Taheny (both based in Toronto) - mixes electronic elements with sort of old school Canadian indie. They took on the task of getting the energy of the night going. Before their set I’d only known of them by reputation but I’m a fan now. They were phenomenal.

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Finishing off the night at the mainstage was Kitchener’s drums-guitar powerhouse PS I Love You. They took the energy that Dusted had built up with the crowd and blew it up, people were jumping around and dancing and one guy even got a crowdsurf in. Guitarist Paul Saulnier might not look like a Peter Frampton guitar god or something, but he owned the stage – fingertapping, playing guitar behind his head, and just generally proving himself a serious presence. Drummer Benjamin Nelson also held up his end of things heroically.

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After PS I Love You‘s set ended, festivities moved over to the Royal Canadian Legion venue. Fredericton band Motherhood started playing around 12:15. I was already so tired from barely sleeping the night before and driving all day that at this point I needed some serious persuasion to keep going. And although Motherhood put on a very solid performance, they were so Nick Cave-inspired that it was more like I was watching a Nick Cave cover band than an original crew from Fredericton. Maybe if I’d sat through their entire set or got into their music more I would see more originality, but at the point in the night I didn’t have the patience and decided to call it in, despite my desire to see Halifax’s Moon, who were playing after them.

Re-Evaluated // Without Feathers

July 21st, 2014 | Features | 0 Comments

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The Stills made a name for themselves in Canadian indie rock in 2003 with their excellent debut album Logic Will Break Your Heart. Riding the post-punk wave of the time that Interpol more or less kicked off, The Stills were also lucky enough to benefit from all the press that Montreal got around that time, as bands like Arcade Fire, Wolf Parade and Stars brought the French-Canadian metropolis to international musical attention again years after Godspeed You! Black Emperor put it on the map.

Thinking themselves clever and knowing that interest in post-punk was waning, the band switched horses for their second album, Without Feathers, dropping the dark 80s vibe and instead attempting to write something along the lines of a Canadian indie rock-pop album for the road weary. The critics were not impressed. Nobody was really. This was not The Stills we knew and loved and most didn’t really know what to make of the album.

For album three, Oceans Will Rise, the band tried to come back in a big way, signing to the beloved Arts & Crafts label and apparently hooking up with some very trendy industry stylists, but it was only to put out an album that, though not entirely devoid of charm, lacked the soul and cohesion of their previous albums (despite this, it won the meaningless Juno award for Alternative Album Of The Year). Then The Stills broke up. Without Feathers was where everything went wrong. And it’s a real shame, because it’s actually a pretty solid album.

Without Feathers is not as cool as Logic…, but it does have more heart.  With former drummer Dave Hemelin taking lead vocal duty, the album seems to have some kind of conceptual bent to it, with songs with titles like “In The Beginning”, “In The End”, and “Outro” (oddly enough, the last two appear in the middle of the album). I have no idea what the ‘story’ would be, but the album always feels like it’s going somewhere, like there’s some kind of progression that takes place from one song to the next (though most sound pretty similar), until it reaches the melancholic melodica of “The House We Live In”, which leads the album out with the beautiful “Dear Sarah/The house we live in/Is all I know.” And the band always sounds more alive, more real than on Logic, as if this was the sound they decided was really right for them now (before listeners (perhaps in pure knee-jerk fashion) decided it wasn’t) and everyone was really excited to have found it.

Another thing that makes the album special is how Hamelin’s vocal melodies always seem to be moving upwards, euphorically. His voice is maybe a little thinner than once-and-soon-to-be-again lead vocalist Tim Fletcher, but it’s more authentic, and his singing feels more alive.

I don’t think I got around to even listening to Without Feathers until a year or two after its release in 2006. But the first time I did, I immediately loved it and knew it was just a victim of expectations. They say time heals – I think it’s time this album’s reputation was healed as well. Admittedly it sounds a little square in 2014, as indie rock has fractured to a certain extent into the experimental post-Merrweather deep end and more ‘mindie’-minded acts, but if you still have a soft-spot for the sounds of mid-2000s Canadian indie, Without Feathers is an overlooked gem.

Records And Tapes From My Trip Across America

July 3rd, 2014 | Features | 0 Comments

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Whenever I go on a trip, I try to pick up some cool stuff from wherever I visit, whether its zines or comics or records or whatever. I want something local or just plain weird that I couldn’t just find everywhere. I recently took a two month trip across America, and in almost every city I tried to get something little to have as a keepsake. It could be just a sticker from the Third Man Store in Nashville, or a fridge magnet from the Sub Pop store in the Seattle airport, but I just wanted something that I could look at or listen to later and be like, “I remember where I got that.”

In almost every city we went to I tried to hit up the record store(s) to see if anything looked too cool to pass up on. If I were a less restrained person I would have bought wayyyy more shit, but I limited myself to just a couple picks that were reasonably priced. Here are the unique records and tapes I picked up and the fairly average stories behind them, presented in chronological order of when I bought them.

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PlainsBirthday Island (cassette)

The kind of hipster part of Nashville is East Nashville, which is luckily where we were staying at a nice couple’s house via Airbnb. We didn’t even plan it like that, it just worked out that way. There was a little strip of store nearby with a vegan restaurant and clothing stores and a little records and guitar shop. I saw this tape on the wall for $4 and, caught by the art and colours, asked what it sounded like. The guy in the store told me it was some dude in Alabama and it was sort of ‘party rock’ or something. It is, but it’s off kilter and cool and goofy ‘party rock’.

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Long Legged WomanNobody Knows This Is Nowhere (LP)

Athens, Georgia is known for having a great music scene. It started back in the 80s with REM and the B-52s and continues to this day with bands like Neutral Milk Hotel and Of Montreal. Going through the locals section at legendary record store Wuxtry Records – where Michael Stipe and Peter Buck apparently met and talked about music – I came across this beautiful screen printed cardboard jacket. I checked out the band online and loved the dirty, feral sound – that actually is pretty well matched by the cover – so I picked it up for $15.

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Natural BlondeS/T (cassette)

This is a really cool little EP I picked up at New Orleans’ Euclid Records, I great store that actually was located on the street we were staying on. It’s kind of hazey, 90s-ish indie rock. It was also just $4 at the store.

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Portland Bike EnsembleS/T (LP)

I found this album in a cool record store in San Francisco, the name of which I forget. I was actually leaning towards a collection of old Algerian pop songs that the guy was playing in the store, but as the record played on, I felt it got too shmaltzy and decided I didn’t want it. I saw this crazy cover and thought it looked interesting. I also saw that it was put out by Olde English Spelling Bee, which I knew to be a pretty cool label. It was also only $10. I thought it was going to be some cool group from Portland playing weird, interesting, Portland-y songs, maybe not unlike Oregon Bike Trails, but when I took the record back to where we staying and was able to hear some of it (now that I had access to Wi-Fi on my phone), I realized this was actually a group that played bicycles as instruments. Not even in like a cool Blue Man Group, actually-making-music way, but in a ridiculously Portlandia-tastic way, in which they just bang on bicycles and record the sounds as some ‘avant garde’ shit. I actually wanted to return it and get something else, but I just didn’t have time. So now if I’m ever chilling and want to hear the sounds of weird people banging on bicycles, I have this record to satisfy that desire.

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VariousBlack Plastic Singing Flats Volume II (cassette)

Something about San Francisco didn’t sit right with me, so my second day in the Bay Area I went to explore Oakland, which I heard is kind of like the Brooklyn to San Fran’s Manhattan (and this is sort of true, but not totally). I actually really liked Oakland and had a better time there than in San Fran, and while I was there I checked out another great record store called Jam Econo Records. They had a big cassette rack on the wall and the cover of this caught my eye. I asked if I could listen to it and luckily the store had a stereo system with headphones where you could ‘try before you buy’. This 23-song cassette is full of awesome Asian pop songs from the 60s and maybe 70s, featuring badass orchestras and fuzz guitar and a lot of great combinations of Asian and Western sounds of the time. I listened to a couple songs and loved almost every one, I can’t wait to listen to the whole thing (but I need to buy a new cassette player first).

(Note: This is off volume 1 of the Black Plastic Singing Flats comps, but this is what volume II sounds like for the most part too. I couldn’t find any of volume II online.)

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VariousThose Shocking Shaking Days (LP)

I saw this at a record store in Olympia. It’s a compilation of hard, psychedelic, progressive rock and funk from Indonesia in the 70s. I’ve been interested in weird international music for a while now, and they were having a sale on vinyl compilations, so even though this was the second most expensive record purchase of the trip at $24, it was marked down from around $30 (they’re usually pretty expensive) making it a relatively good deal. It’s a triple-disc set with a detailed booklet about the songs, the artists, and the politically turbulent times in which the music was made. Even a cursory listen to what’s on YouTube from it will tell you that it’s excellent. Perhaps the best purchase of the trip.

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RoachclipDiscovery Park (LP)

We were only in Detroit for a couple hours, but luckily there was a record store close to the Greyhound station, so I was able to walk over and check out some local records there while we waited for our bus back to Toronto. Turns out that even though the city is basically dead and decrepit, the Detroit music scene, which has been responsible for so many great things over the years, from Motown to The MC5 to Eminem and The White Stripes, is still going strong. I asked them to put on a couple local tapes and records for me and I liked all of them, but eventually decided to go with this one, which had a real ramshackle charm and was just $12. The guy in the store, before playing the record for me, told me it sounded kind of like the Velvet Underground and that would be a correct comparison. It’s got that kind of chugginess to it, but it’s very loose and cool and fun.

I actually have a couple more tapes and another record that I got for free or whatever, but I’m not sure if they’re interesting enough to even write about. I did pick up the new My Bloody Valentine album used (somehow) but in perfect condition in Seattle for $25 (compared to the going price of $39.99 new everywhere) but everyone knows about that one, no point writing more about it. So yeah, it was a great trip, good times, good food, good people, and some very good music :)

Re-Evaluated // Laced With Romance

April 22nd, 2014 | Features | 0 Comments

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The musical maturation of myself and my friends came during a period hailed as the ‘garage rock revival’. It was the early 2000s. There was no war, the American economy was in good shape, and bunch of badass new rock bands like The White Stripes, The Strokes, The Hives, The Vines, and many more were bringing rock back from the dead. The music wasn’t ‘alt’ or what was then known as ‘modern rock’, but rather, these bands looked towards the great rockers of the past like The Velvet Underground, Television, The Stooges, and The MC5, and they made something modern and interesting of their influences. You probably remember it, unless you’re in your teens now or younger.

At the time, all these bands seemed so cool and cutting edge – in retrospect, much of it was a lot more polished and accessible than most of today’s more ‘far out’, experimental indie rock. In any case, they clearly ushered in a new interest in rock music that would then morph into the indie rock of today through the changes brought about with the popularity of bands like Broken Social Scene, Arcade Fire, LCD Soundsystem, Animal Collective, Deerhunter, Bon Iver, and, of course, many more.

In the course of indie rock’s relentless forward drive, some bands managed to keep pace, while others either got left behind or just lost in the shuffle. The Ponys were a great band from Chicago that attracted some attention back during the garage rock revival and apparently hit their popular peak as late as 2007 with the release of their third album on Matador before taking an ill-advised two years off. While their sound and the production of their albums sounds very much from that time, they were always a lot more interesting than many of their peers. Their sound had some great distinguishing features, like the booming voice of Jered Gummere and their spiked, almost-shoegazey guitar sound. Unfortunately, they fell into the category of bands that seemingly got lost in the shuffle. Today, I’m not sure how many of my friends and music-oriented acquaintances would even recognize their name. No one ever seems to write or talk about them. And today they no longer exist, with frontman Gummere now leading Bare Mutants, and guitarist Brian Case a member of Dissapears. I don’t know what the other members are up to.

So since nobody’s talking about them anymore, I’m going to talk (or write) about them, because they made some really cool music, most notably their first album, Laced With Romance. While all their albums are pretty good, Laced With Romance, produced by Jim Diamond (best known for his work on The White Stripes‘ first two albums), is the one that packs the most punch (and reverb). On later albums they sound less interesting, less assured, and their songs less urgent, exciting. Laced With Romance burst out the gate with the tongue in cheek “Let’s Kill Ourselves” and kills it all the way through the Phil Spector put-on “Fall Inn”, the red light “Chemical Imbalance”, and the snarky “I Only Love You Because You Look Like Me”. These songs are kind of classics, or at least feel like it.

Admittedly the album doesn’t have that bareness that’s kept their peers’ albums like Get Behind Me Satan and Room On Fire from aging badly. And, if released today, it would sound just not quite right. But it’s still a great album, especially if like me, you look back on that time and place in rock music fondly.

Kazoo! Fest: Day 4 & 5 (12/04/14, 13/04/14)

April 14th, 2014 | Features | 0 Comments

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Saturday was the most action-packed day of the festival, so let’s get right in.

After waking up groggily, eating some bread & hummus and doing a quick workout, I made my way over to the Kazoo! Print Expo for the last hour (it ended at 3:00 pm). It was a pretty standard print expo type deal, with a lot of great artists and zinesters with their prints, zines, comics, silkscreens, etc. Koyama Press and Liz Worth (Treat Me Like Dirt, PostApoc) were notably there with their works. I ended up getting two issues of a short comic called Dumb by Georgia Webber. The ‘series’ is about her ‘prolongued voice loss, and the slow crawl of recovery’. There’s not a ton of story in the two short issues, but the art style is cool and minimal and it is kind of interesting to see how voice loss affects her whole life. She has to quite her job and go on welfare and it’s just not a great situation. Hope she recovers soon and her life can get back to normal – in the meantime, I hope she writes longer comics or combines more issues into one kind of graphic novel, because my biggest complaint is that the issues are too short.

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There’s a dude inside this.

After the print expo I was off to a cool little space called Silence to see the Nihilist Spasm Band, perhaps the longest running noise band in the world. Originating in London, Ontario, the band has been together since 1965. They looked like the coolest, craziest grandparents in the world playing for a bunch of twenty-something/thirty-something hipsters. Admittedly, noise bands aren’t really my thing, so while I totally respected their ability to pull it off so stylishly (there is an art to noise-making – some are better at it than others), I didn’t need to hear that much before I was ready to leave.

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Unfortunately, this picture doesn’t quite capture the storm of sound they were making. Try the clip below from their younger days.

Next stop: My Own Shortcomings ‘mixed media exhibition by Hugh Mater‘. There wasn’t really that much mixing of media other than a dude playing old singles played at the wrong speed (slow, which actually made them sound pretty interesting), but there was some cool art. I’m not an art critic, but I liked it. Here are some pictures.

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After a breather and a curry wrap, it was time for EONS at the Red Brick Cafe. The solo project of Bruce Peninsula‘s Matt Cully, EONS‘ music is very traditional folk. Helping him out with pitch-perfect harmonies (and impressively snappy jibes) was another Bruce Peninsula member, Misha Bower. While EONS was maybe too traditionally folk for my tastes, their songs were well-crafted, tuneful, lyrically sound, and their performance was likewise faultless.

After another break for food, I was off to Cornerstone for Guelph’s Shopkeeper, a band I can describe most succinctly as being very ‘Canadian indie-rock’-sounding. Which is a good thing. It’s comforting, homey, Canadian.

And finally, the act of the night that I’d been waiting for, Mike Feuerstack: an artist who’d be a millionaire if critical praise could be converted into cash. I’ve written a lot about Feuerstack over the years, having loved his work with The Wooden Stars (Julie Doiron and The Wooden Stars is a classic), his work under the Snailhouse pseudonym, and most recently his work under his own name. When I was in the IDF, I remember listening to him obsessively while stationed on the Syrian border, as his work also sounds very ‘Canadian indie’ and it reminded me of home sweet snowy home.

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I’ve seen him play twice before. This time he was playing solo with an electric guitar and a beautiful sounding tube amp. Far moreso than Bry Webb and Destroyer – the other bigger names who played solo for the fest – Feuerstack’s songs lose the least when performed sans backing. Sure, on his records there’s a lot of beautiful padding, but most of his songs only require a guitar and vocals to sound full and perfect. And despite him charmingly forgetting lyrics and chords a couple times, Feuerstack effortless kills it every performance. With his sensitive cooing voice, and song after song full of pretty hooks and chord changes, he doesn’t need to try to perform well at this point in his career, he just does.

At this point, after two nights out till the wee small hours and couch-crashing, I was pretty beat. I soldiered on to Jimmy Jazz to check out explosive punk instrumentalists Bleet – who were phenomenal – but a couple songs in I decided to call it a night.

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The next morning there was a pancake breakfast show co-presented by Weird Canada. This was a brilliant way to end the fest, as all the artists and volunteers and frequent faces of the fest congregated together – many with their little kids – and just chilled, talked, ate pancakes (including vegan ones!). I caught experimental acts Eden Segal-Grossman and Isla Craig (pictured above), but their music – solid as it was – was more a background for good vibes and great food. Every festival should end like this.

And so the time came for me to trudge on over to the GO bus station and grab the bus back to Toronto. It had been an incredible weekend. Though Kazoo! Fest was perhaps a festival with a limited budget – all of the biggest acts played without their backing bands – it made up in heart and quality what it lacked in cash. Guelph is small but charming, with lots of friendly, interesting, intelligent people, and a ratio of women:men that puts the perennial sausage-fest that is Toronto’s downtown scene to shame. Every show was well-attended and people came out ready and willing to make friends and become fans. Though by this time next year I’ll be living in New York, maybe I’ll even make the trek up to the great white North to see what happens for next Kazoo! Fest.

Kazoo! Fest: Day 3 (11/04/14)

April 12th, 2014 | Features | 0 Comments

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The third day of the festival was most notable for featuring the two biggest acts of the festival: Bry Webb (of Constantines) and Destroyer. Both played acoustic sets in the Dublin St. United Church – indeed, a pretty nice setting for acoustic stuff.

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The kick-off event of the night, the show began at eight with Bry Webb‘s set. Accompanied by Rich Burnett on lap steel guitar, Webb played a set of songs that one could reasonably presume were off his first solo album Provider and the upcoming Free Will (I haven’t heard anything off either). While the songs were fairly solid folk-ish tunes – admittedly lacking in hooks and a particularly strong flavour (though the more fleshed out recordings sound far more rustic) – Webb’s wonderfully full and mature voice – still one of the best voices in contemporary indie rock – was clearly the biggest asset on display. As phenomenal as he is tearing up his vocal chords in front of the powerhouse that is Constantines onstage (and in-studio), he sounds nearly as good on his own, and it doesn’t hurt that his lyrics are particularly inspired regardless of backing, setting, whatever.

I’ve seen Destroyer play two or three times now, both solo acoustic and with a full band. While he’s charming on his own, the fact is he is incomparably better accompanied by his backing band. Some of the earlier material  - anything pre-Your Blues - sounds more or less fine acoustic, but anything after – especially everything off 2011′s incredible Kaputt – lacks all the nuances and melodies that his band provides and simply sound skeletal and lacking. I’ve yet to see Dan Bejar give a bad performance, but the fact is that an acoustic Destroyer set is a compromise in place of the ‘real thing’.

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After a peak into the packed eBar to catch a couple minutes of the jazzy Manatee, I made my way over to Jimmy Jazz to catch some of Watershed Hour‘s set. The Whitby all-girl duo featured one 90′s haired chick storming the drum kit in true 90′s alt-rock fashion while another alternated between bass and guitar while valiantly attempting to manage her pedals with her toes. It was pretty chaotic and sounded like crazy kids going nuts with their ‘rock and roll musics’ in the garage, but their conviction was admirable and ultimately made for a good show. Unfortunately, their poorly-produced online recordings capture almost nothing of this.

Back over at eBar, Petra Glynt took the stage to deliver her whole weird solo sample-core shtick. This was the second time I’ve seen her and while I respect her experimentalism, I’m still not really enjoying it. That could change at some point in the future, though. I like her ideas and general vision – and I didn’t totally come around to the not-entirely-dissimilar Grimes until she put out her game-changing Visions in 2012.

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Toronto’s DIANA closed the night with one of the best performances of the festival. I’ve been a fan of lead-singer Carmen Elle for years and it was great to see her new band live for the first time after enjoying their album Perpetual Surrender for the last couple months. They got on pretty late and eBar wasn’t quite as packed as it had been earlier, but DIANA brought no shortage of energy and character to a faultless set of songs. Kieran Adams‘ live electronic percussion was especially amazing.